Romney's Appeal Spans the Issues, Palin Leads on Social Values

by Frank Newport

Government spending, business and economy remain top issues for Republicans

PRINCETON, NJ -- Mitt Romney, one of the two leaders for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, receives generally equal support across Republican political issue groups. Sarah Palin, the other leader, has a more segmented appeal, with greater support among Republicans most concerned about social and moral issues, and less interest from Republicans focused on government spending and power.

Republican Candidate Choice by Political Issue Most Important to Respondents, May 2011

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These results, based on interviewing conducted May 20-24, provide insights into the positioning of the potential and declared Republican candidates who remain in the race after Mike Huckabee and Mitch Daniels announced they would not be seeking their party's nomination.

The largest segment of Republicans (36%) continue to say government spending and power is their top concern. Romney does best in this segment, followed by a group of four candidates between 10% and 13% support. Herman Cain, the less well-known candidate -- who nevertheless generates a good deal of positive intensity among those who know him -- does slightly better than Newt Gingrich, Palin, or Ron Paul within this issue group. Paul, an avowed libertarian, has made the push for restraining government power the hallmark of his political career, but he does not have an unusually strong position among these Republicans.

The second-most-prevalent group consists of Republicans whose most salient issue is business and the economy (31%). Republicans in this group are most likely to favor Romney and Palin, with Paul and Gingrich lagging slightly behind. Romney is the only major GOP candidate who has an MBA and is one of the few candidates who have extensive experience in the corporate world. Cain's experience includes his position as CEO of Godfather's Pizza, but he does not do particularly well among Republicans whose main interest is business and the economy.

Fifteen percent of Republicans say their main political interest is social issues and moral values. Mike Huckabee dominated as the candidate of choice among this group in previous months, and his announcement on May 14 that he would not be running therefore left a void. Palin now fares best among this group, receiving 23% support, followed by Romney at 18% and Paul at 11%. No other candidate gets double-digit support. In April, Huckabee led with 26% support among this group, while Palin received 18%.

Another 15% of Republicans say national security and foreign policy is their biggest concern. Romney and Palin tie for the lead among this group, with Cain coming in third, slightly ahead of Gingrich.

Little Change in Importance of Four Issues Among Republicans

The relative importance of these four political issues to Republicans has stayed roughly the same each month since February. Government spending and power has consistently been the top concern, followed by business and the economy. Social and moral issues and national security/foreign policy have been significantly behind these others, and are this month tied in the ranking of top issue groups of Republicans, with 15% each.

Republicans' Issue Priorities, 2011 Trend

Implications

Romney's roughly equal appeal among the four issue-defined segments of Republicans is one of the most interesting outcomes of this research. Romney in general has high favorable ratings and low unfavorable ratings, but he does not generate the same type of intense feelings as do other candidates. These data suggest that Romney does well among Republicans in all four issue segments, but doesn't have unusually strong appeal in any.

Palin, on the other hand has a more segmented appeal. With Huckabee's departure from the GOP race, she now fares best among Republicans who say social and moral issues are their top concern, and essentially ties for first among those who favor business and the economy and national security/foreign policy. Palin, however, lags among the largest group of Republicans -- those most focused on government spending and power.

Cain, overall one of Republicans' top five choices for their party's nomination, despite being recognized by only a third of Republicans, places strongly among Republicans whose most important issue is government spending and power. Cain also does well among national security and foreign policy-interested Republicans.

The other two candidates among Republicans' top five choices for the nomination -- Paul and Gingrich -- do not have highly segmented positioning across the GOP interest groups. Paul does less well among those interested in national security and foreign policy, and Gingrich does less well among those interested in social and moral values.

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Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 20-24, 2011, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 971 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of Republicans, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

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